Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Winter Homeschool Stuff

Winter has been BRUTAL on me this year, my friends.

I don’t like to make it a habit of rushing through the days of my life, but I’m telling ya. I could do with a bit of spring right about now.

I’ve been trying to relish the cozy winter evenings spent wrapped up the quilt my great-grandma made. My reading list is hefty and my supply of tea bags is pretty impressive.

Sounds idyllic, right?

It would be so much better if it weren't for the cold.

Nevertheless, I am embracing this season of life (literally) and I've made list this week of  "must dos" for our homeschool. 

1. We are currently reading The Long Winter. Actually, we are listening to The Long Winter. I downloaded it from Audible. I figured everything looks better compared to a seven month blizzard!

2. I found this documentary from the BBC about Yellowstone in Winter. Actually, all the seasons are available. I saw this one and immediately thought..."ooo, Josiah would like this one." Though he and The Muffin are unusually fond of sharks.

3. I purchased a copy of Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening (Robert Frost) that was illustrated by Susan Jeffers. It isn't actually here yet. I ordered it on Amazon from a third party seller. It's one of my favorite poems and I was inspired. Now that I think about it...it's quite possible I already have it somewhere. You know how that is.

4. Speaking of  the Snowy Woods, I found this art project to do. It uses paper and tempera paint (of which I have massive amounts of).  We are going to try and do this on Thursday. I figure it will give me a few days to get my table cleaned off. 😁

5. We are making Chicken Pot Pie! Here's the thing. Sometimes you have to be intentional about teaching your young men to do things like cook. I asked Josiah what he would like to learn to cook next and he told me "chicken pot pie with the biscuits." It's an old family standard. He hasn't tackled a roux yet...I'll try and take pictures and report back. It will be interesting.

I'm sure I'll add to the list as we go on. Do you have any fun winter plans?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

White Chicken Chili

Burr! It’s cold out there. Temperatures here in Indiana have been below freezing. I don’t know about you, but I like to serve my family warm and filling soups and stews on those cold winter nights. 

 They seem to stretch farther and since they don’t require as much time to prepare, I give the appearance like I have my act together.

As long as I feed him, The Studly Muffin is a happy camper.

I have a few soupy recipes I want to share with you over the month of January, but this first one is one of my favorites.

I LOVE chili. And this White Chicken Chili is a yummy respite from a traditional tomato based chili. This is similar to a Mexican Chicken Soup my mom used to make when we were younger. I actually shared this particular recipe in a long ago forgotten post years ago (we are talking nearly 11). It is still one of my favorites. 

I like to serve it with tortilla chips, extra cheese and a little diced avocado for good measure.

I DON'T have a picture of the finished product. That would be too industrious today 😀

White Chicken Chili
2 cans of great northern beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon hot sauce (less if you like a milder chili)
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
Two 4-ounce cans chopped mild green chilies, chopped
2 pounds skinless chicken breast halves cooked and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack (about 6 ounces)
1/2 cup sour cream

In a skillet cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat until softened.
In a pot, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Stir in onion and gradually add broth and half-and-half, whisking constantly. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in hot sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add beans, chilies, chicken, and Monterey Jack and cook mixture over moderately low heat, stirring, 20 minutes. Stir sour cream into chili.

If you want to make this dish more economical, you can use more beans and less chicken. Don’t skimp on the spices…This last time I made this I added some dried wild garlic I got from my mom PLUS some smoked paprika.


Friday, January 12, 2018

A Favorite Space: My Piano

Happy Weekend, my friends!

We just got another blast of cold weather and snow. I had to reschedule a procedure I was going to have done today (a Venus doppler).  It wasn't worth traipsing around in the white stuff.

Not that I can traipse anywhere. All of the icy conditions puts a damper on my running around game. I sure have enough to do at home, so my running game would only prove to be distracting.

Every year, I love taking January to purge and redecorate.

This year, I'm taking my time. I'm designing one little vignette at a time.

My design style has certainly changed throughout the years. I have never been what you would call a "minimalist." But as I grow older, I am fonder of unique pieces, handcrafted items and touches of vintage here and there.

Mostly, I am of  the "use what you have" and "use what you love" persuasion. The results aren't always worthy of Joanna Gaines. But...a girl can only do what she can do.

I thought I would share with you what is going on with my piano.

You might need to know that for several years my piano was in storage. Our reunion was a happy one...though my piano is in desperate need of tuning. That will come later...for now she's all dressed up.

Fair warning. I've taken lots 'o pictures. Mostly so I could show my momma.

Here is the side view of the old girl. That fabulous "T" we got from Hobby Lobby in clearance for less than $8.

Excuse the glare. That snow is sparkly!

This beautiful watercolor is called "Field of Flowers." My momma painted it several years ago and it has been "on loan" at my house for some time.  That little garland is not part of the picture, but I had it up over Christmas and decided I would keep it up there for a while. I tried to move it...thus its wonky position.

The other big piece of my wall is a ruffled wreath I made out of an old hymn book. It was simple to make. I just sat down one night in front of the TV with my glue gun and the hymnal pages. I have made a couple of book page wreaths with the neater rolled pages, but I liked this one for myself. It's kind of messy....like me.

I didn't get a picture of the wine colored candle stick, but I've had that for several years. I got it at Hobby Lobby (once again in clearance). I put a cute little artificial plant on top. I got a set of them from Amazon. The container is cement. I loved the texture it adds.  I might change the candlestick in the near future. We shall see. 

I've had these Spanish dancers for years. They also spent some time in the storage building. They also came from my Momma. Got to love Momma's rejects. Spanish lady had an accident and we had to glue her back together. You can see her little glue line. We just pretend it's her belt. 

This is a special little piece. A dear friend from church, Joe, is a fantastic artist. His specialty is painting scenes and wildlife from his native Indiana (which is, of course, where we are living now). This little snow scene is just perfect on my piano. Joe is in his early 80's by the way. The rest of us have NO excuses.

This Hobby Lobby lantern is not really black. It has copper and bronze accents that you can't see in the picture. I did fill the lantern space with fairy lights at Christmas and decided to keep them for the winter. Shiny!

I am so in love with this piece. My niece, Kalynn, is a talented ceramist. She made us this bowl and a mug for Christmas. It can be used to actually eat in, but I couldn't bring myself to pour a bowl of cereal in it. It's just too special.

I will try and take a picture of the mug (which has lovely details) one of these days, but for now we will just bask in this bowl's loveliness.

This sweet owl is a candle warmer my sister-in-law, Deb, got me for Christmas. It comes from Yankee Candle. A few years ago, she bought me a smaller warmer that I use in my bedroom. It isn't an owl, but one of my favorite features of this particular warmer is that you can set it to be on for 3 hours, 6 hours or 9 hours.  The candle currently in use is lavender & vanilla. Delicious.

I am obsessed with this little rug. My momma made it. ON HER LOOM. I couldn't bring myself to use it as an actual rug so I put it on my piano bench.

It is gawwgous! And I think it is right where it needs to be.

I realize that the left side of the piano is a bit heavier than the other. I'm not ready to do anything about it quite yet. I like how I've anchored either side with a set of 3 books. I have a thing for books. And old books....I can't even tell you how much I love old books.

They make wonderful accents to my decor. AND I love using them to change the heights of my lovelies.

I also love using natural elements. This is a real piece of wood. It's cracked, messy and just perfect.

So that's it! I'll try and share a few more projects as I go.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Book Challenge: The Woman in White

This year I've jumped into something new. You might know that I LOVE to read.

In fact, reading is my superpower.

I decided to join the Reading Challenge over at  Modern Mrs. Darcy. Not because I am struggling to find time or motivation to read.

Gurrlll....As I said...Reading is my superpower. And the library my happy place.

I through this challenge would be fun. And it would help me search out new and exciting books and authors.

The challenge for this week?

A classic you've been meaning to read. 

Now this was more challenging than I anticipated.

Ya'll. I've read a whole lot of classic literature. My favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre. And then there is this. I really don't like books that don't end well. I like happy endings.

All that heavy, depressing literature we read in High School?

I'm not into it.

Of Mice and Men. Nope.

Grapes of Wrath. Nope.

Animal Farm. Nope and Nope.

Frankly, there are many works of classic literature that are downright SAD.

Give me rainbows and sunshine. Unicorns and glitter.

And if I can't have rainbows and glitter, I do love a good spooky, gothic mystery. 

Years ago, I watched a satisfyingly spooky Masterpiece Theater production called The Woman in White. Admittedly there wasn't a rainbow or unicorn to be found in this terrific production. But it sure met my other criteria.

I enjoyed this program immensely, but never sought out the book it was based on.

Written by Wilkie Collins in 1859, The Woman in White is considered one the first mystery novels.

We begin our story with a Mr. Walter Hartright letting us know that he is about to tell us a story. This isn't any old story. He's gathered personal testimony from all those involved so you (the reader) won't doubt the whole truth of it.

Mr. Hartright is a drawing master. He has inherited his business and talent from his late father. His newest assignment sends him to Limmeridge house. On the way there he meets a mysterious (if not a little "tetched") woman in white.

dum. dum. dum.

We don't understand the significance of this meeting until later, but once he gets to Limmeridge house he undertakes the artistic education of two sisters, Laura and Marian. The ladies are half sisters who share the same mother. Both are orphans and are under the care of  Laura's truly odious (and hypochondriac) uncle.

You know that Mr. Hartright has to fall in love with one of the girls and he (of course) chooses the gentle and beautiful, Laura. Now even when I saw Masterpiece Theater production I was irked about this (just a little).

Laura is really delightful, but Marian is most definitely Mr. Hartright's soulmate. They get along famously and there is none of that awkwardness, etc. But...Marian is plainer and she also happens to be poor. Laura is an heiress to her father's fortune.

She also is engaged to a certain Sir Percival Glyde.

dum. dum. dum.

Keep in mind that all of this happens towards the beginning of the book. Laura doesn't ride off into the sunset with her drawing master. She bows to her late father's wishes and marries Sir Percival...even after he makes a big stink about having full control of her fortune.

Mr. Hartright decides to drown his sorrows in some foreign jungle. And we learn a little bit more about the mysterious Woman in White.

I won't go much farther in my summary of the story...I don't want to give away any of the good bits to those of who you might want to read it..BUT, there is a delicious villain by the name of Count Fosco.

This is a villian to surpass all villians.  He is so engaging that you almost hate to hate him!

The Masterpiece Theater production took some liberties and changed the story a bit. They made it just a bit darker. I think perhaps that those things which Victorian England might have found shocking won't seem to dark to us, so those who adapted it to film wanted to increase the "wow" factor.

There are a few twists and turns in this novel that are completely unexpected. There were also events that happened that made me feel completely helpless. Women were helpless in this society for the most part. A woman's well being and fortune often depended on the whims of a man.

I do suggest that you watch the movie after reading the book. It can currently be found on youtube.

The actresses that play Laura and Marian (Justine Waddell and Tara Fitzgerald) are just plain terrific.

So I give this book (and movie) and BIG THUMBS UP! It meets all my criteria for a spooky, gothic classic with a happy ending.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Winter Homeschool Printables, Some Good Advice AND Schoolhouseteachers.com

Good evening, my friends. Hope your Monday was productive. I did get a few things on my "to do" list done.

I have so much many things I want to tell you. But, unfortunately, my productivity petered out a few hours ago. I did manage to get supper in the oven.

Yay! Cereal is off the menu for tonight!

We all have those days.

One of my goals this week is to continue my planning and preparations for this next year.

I'm getting there. Getting my ducks in a row can be quite a challenge. They are usually hyperactive and just a little crazy.

My duck wrangling efforts have reminded me of some fun resources I have for the chilly months here on the blog.

Here you can find some fun printable writing prompts for Winter.

Now this next link will take you to a whole page of awesomeness. I promise. There are winter notebooking pages, winter animal reading and study, a weather printable, and more!

I think this Winter Bird Watching Set is sooo cute!

All of the printables were created by yours truly and absolutely FREE. 

The flu is especially nasty this year. I understand some of you have been under the weather. I've got the cure! This Chicken Noodle Soup is a family favorite and one I fix for all my people. Tuck this recipe in your arsenal. You won't be disappointed. 

Winter can be pretty tough on me. My body hurts and I am frequently homebound.  It just gets exhausting. I want you to know I understand. This post  I wrote several years ago talks about Homeschooling Through the Hard Times.  I find that I have to go back and read through it from time to time.

This link is actually for a post I recently wrote for the Homeschool Review Crew. It's just a little advice about looking ahead to the new year.  I also stumbled across a post I wrote for the Crew blog back in 2013. It's not necessarily about the winter, but I think it's good to read heading into these long months.

Before I go I need to tell you about Schoolhouseteachers.com. I have been a member forever! It has helped me in sooo many ways. I'll do a post soon about some of the current goodies we've been using. I also am writing a history course for the site, but it's going to be a bit before it's ready for public viewing.

Brand new members of the Homeschool Review Crew just got to experience the fun for the very first time and wrote a series of reviews. You can read all of them on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Such fun!

So, my friends. My productivity is way past its bedtime and I've got that casserole I need to get out of the oven.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Year. Stuff. From the Couch

Happy New Year!

I hope you are having a wonderful day wherever you are.

We have SNOW on the ground and are experiencing mighty cold weather. It's the kind of weather that freezes your face off.

The Studly Muffin and Josiah got up and went to the men's community Bible study they go to every other week. The Muffin went out to start the car and the thermometer said it was -6 degrees.


Princess and I have elected to occupy our corner on the couch wrapped in the fuzzy robe my momma got me for Christmas. I haven't even started the coffee yet this morning.

Speaking of dropping off the face of the earth (because easy transition sentences aren't coming to me this morning, nor apparently, are blog post titles) I realize I haven't posted in ages. It isn't because I haven't had anything to say. I've either been too stinking busy or suffering some sort of writer's block.

You will not believe how many blog posts I've started. They all begin with something like this.

Hi friends, it's been a while....

Hello! I know I haven't posted....

Good Morning! I'm still here...

And that's about it.

So much for my great plans to blog over the Christmas holiday.

I had great plans for writing an inspiring New Year's post laying out all my bright and new shiny goals for this next year.

This will happen eventually, but in my dealings with chronic illness/disappointments/life challenges over the years, I've come to realize that it is perfectly fine and more advantageous to tackle what is right in front of you. I've talked about this a lot, but I live by this mantra....life is made up of tiny moments. Don't spend it waiting for the big things. Learn to live a beautiful life TODAY.

Sometimes, we just need to start where we are. And where I am this morning is on the couch.

With my cat.

This week, my goals are simple.  I have been doing my annual New Year's purge (I was challenge my this post from my sister-in-law) and making over one meal.

What does this look like?

Every day I have been getting ready of something or somethings according to the calendar date. For example, today is the 4th of January. This means I am purging 4 things from my home. It is that simple. Tomorrow I will purge 5. Believe me. We are homeschoolers. I have more than enough clutter in my little office to last me until, at least, June. Eventually, this month I am going to reorganize my kitchen, but for now, I feel accomplished just doing what I'm doing.

Making over my meals is something I have found helps when refocusing my healthy lifestyle. It is vitally important for me to eat a certain way, but sometimes difficult depending on how well I feel at the time. I have found that if I focus on one meal at a time, I am more likely to succeed. This week, I am working on breakfast. I'll talk more about this in a future post.

Meanwhile. You will find me on the couch with Princess the Cat. I think it's time to make the coffee.

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